Frankly, I didn’t know which way was up. After an intense season of details and deadlines, my soul was fried. I suppose that’s why these words didn’t make sense.

Be. Be still. Be with. Be in.

They composed the counsel my spiritual director gave at the start of a 5-day silent retreat a while back. Beneath a heavy layer of doing, he could see where God was leading.

“When we get more connected to who we are,” he said, “we get closer to God. Let God reveal who you are in the still point.”

The Place to Be

I wasn’t quite sure how to do that, but I guessed it had something to do with breathing-in nature. The retreat center was nestled into deep woods along the shore of Pomme de Terre lake in Southwest Missouri, a great place to “be.”

One morning I got up early to watch the sunrise. As I pushed off from shore in a beat-up, red kayak, I found myself all alone on a large section of that 12.3 square mile lake.

The water was calm as the sun peaked through some low-lying clouds for dramatic effect. In awe, I sat stone silent in the middle of the lake.

Soon fish started jumping all around me, a cow began lowing in the distance, and a Great Blue Heron swept by just three feet off the water. (I swear she winked at me.) The lake was both still and alive!

After paddling to the far side of a narrow bank, something caught my eye. The early morning sun was bouncing off the water onto the cream-colored rocks and bright green bushes along the shore.

A Slow Burn

Like a scene from Exodus, the bushes appeared to be burning, but they didn’t burn up. The sunshine simply danced across them in carefree delight. This private light show captivated me as I slowly drank it in.  

Out of nowhere, the words of a wise friend came to me, “You know, Roger, the natural often mirrors the spiritual.” Suddenly, it all made sense. That gentle, shimmering fire of God was exactly what I needed to warm my heart and light up its dark places.

Spontaneously, the 23rd Psalm began to pour out of my mouth. When I came to, “He restores my soul,” I knew why I was there. Drifting quietly in that kayak, I was living out the watch words of my retreat: “Be. Be still. Be with. Be in.”   

A truth I am slowly embracing is “being comes before doing.” Contrary to our world’s perspective, who we are is more important than what we do.

The question from Peter Scazzero I keep asking myself is: “Am I spending enough time being with God to sustain my doing for God?”

Changing Rhythms

For most of my life, the answer has been “no.” But thankfully, that’s changing. I’m creating a different rhythm that opens more space to be. Be still. Be with. Be in.

For me, that means several little changes:

  • Earlier to bed and earlier to rise has given me more time when I’m most alert. (For some, your best time would be mid day or late at night.)
  • As soon as I’m fully awake, I pray a prayer of total surrender to God, on my knees, out loud. Hearing myself pray it helps the words to sink in.
  • I go to my pre-determined chair, set a 20-minute timer on my watch, and sit quietly before God. (Some people would enjoy this more as a walk through the woods or their neighborhood.) I choose a word or a phrase to repeat to myself silently. It quiets the chatter in my mind. Usually after 10 or 12 minutes, I can fully be present to the Presence.
  • Once dialed in, I give the Risen Jesus opportunity to brings words or images to my mind. Sometimes they come. Sometimes they don’t. Either way is fine. It’s more than enough to simply be with Jesus.
  • Finally, I pray for people and situations that need God to do a holy work.

Do you find yourself consistently over doing to the point of exhaustion? What little changes could you make to open some space where God can reveal who you are in the still point?

Getting connected to who we are is one of the primary ways we get closer to God.

Lord, help me create new rhythms in my life that help me be. Be still. Be with. Be in.

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Roger Ross

A native of Cambridge, Illinois, Roger has served as a pastor in Texas, the British Channel Island of Guernsey, and Illinois. While in Illinois, he led teams that planted two new churches and served for 10 years as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Springfield. It was his privilege to serve as the Director of Congregational Excellence in the Missouri Conference before coming into his current role as an executive coach and specialist with Spiritual Leadership, Inc. (SLI). For reasons unknown, he’s also allowed to teach as an adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. Roger is the author of three books, “Meet The Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith,” “Come Back: Returning to the Life You Were Made For,” and “Come Back Participant Guide,” all through Abingdon Press. Roger is married to Leanne Klein Ross, and they have two adult children, Zach and Jane (who’s married to Sam). He loves spending time with family, reading, SCUBA diving, and traveling in different cultures. He also has a weakness for golf.